Kieran Read Injury Raises Concern for All Blacks v Lions Availability

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 10: Kieran Read of the All Blacks walks onto the field during the New Zealand All Blacks Captain's Run at Eden Park on June 10, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Overnight, the Kieran Read injury sustained during the Cheetahs v Crusaders game has raised concerns for the New Zealand All Blacks team. That, along with minor surgery taken by Jerome Kaino and an ankle sprain for Ben Smith, places a injury-cloud over the inbound British and Irish Lions tour.

Injury is an issue for each squad, being so close to the first test on June 24. The latest names with injuries are a major concern for both teams. That will mean management is relying on quick recovery, and players staying in peak condition. Some will, while others may be a risk–and that brings opportunity for others to stake their claim.

Kieran Read Injury Raises Concern for All Blacks v Lions Availability

Just before halftime in the match in Bloemfontein, Read suffered the injury to his hand. Immediately replaced, the player was invalid to the nearest medical center. A broken thumb on his right hand was diagnosed, and surgery was decided upon.

“The guy has worked so hard off the field to get his hand right from the surgery he had during the off-season, and has been world class since returning to the field,” assistant coach Jason Ryan told media post match.

“Obviously it’s disappointing and will be concerning for the All Blacks.”

It did not stop his Crusader team from a commanding 21-48 away win, so the ‘Red and Black’ machine keeps rumbling on. This injury might not hinder their progress, but it is back in New Zealand where the brow-beating will begin.

All Black Coaches Now Face Injury Concerns

This is professional sport. No player is unaffected by injury, so the risk has always been there. But after Super Rugby Round 10, it just got a little bit more frustrating. Steve Hansen and his coaching group will be speaking today, about the impact of the injury list.

Read now joins Jerome Kaino. The Blues flanker had made the call for minor knee surgery late last week. It removes him from active rugby for approximately six weeks. That timeline may see him return to action for his franchise in time to face the Lions midweek match. That would be a terrific sight, but for now he adds to the injury concerns.

Ben Smith is another key player to find the medic station. In his sides match Friday night, only after five minutes play, the star fullback was down clutching his ankle. It was taped-up and the ever reliable player ran on bravely for the remainder of the strong Highlanders performance.

While his call to play on to help his team achieve a 57-14 victory was an instance of his tenacity, long-term, was it the right decision to play on? The All Blacks team management may have preferred a more cautious approach, as they have demands for the 60 cap player still to come.

Three Players Added to Long List

Both squads will go into the 2017 Lions scheduled tour carrying injuries. For the home side, the latest three names only add to the men who need to recover before the first test on June 24.

  • Kieran Read
  • Jerome Kaino
  • Ben Smith
  • Nehe Milner-Skudder
  • Patrick Tuipulotu

As well, Israel Dagg, Elliot Dixon, Dane Coles and Tawera Kerr-Barlow are to soon return to the field. Some have to meet fitness tests, and Kerr-Barlow has to pass a concussion recovery assessment. It maybe that some players need more game time when Super Rugby participation ends; after the Highlanders play the tourists on June 13.

At that point, their only chance to warm-up will be the Maori All Blacks game on June 17. Milner-Skudder, Dixon, Dagg and Kerr-Barlow could take that opportunity. Otherwise, a (to be confirmed) test against Samoa or Fiji is the last first-class match for any player to be match fit.

The Kieran Read injury timeline is yet to be affirmed, as is Smith’s. If Read returns and is assessed early this week, then he can begin the road to full recovery.

British and Irish Lions Player Fitness to be Tested

As well, there are men who were part of the 41 player squad who also need match-time. That includes tour captain Sam Warburton. Out of action since April 10, so how many quality matches can he get under his belt? A question for Warren Gatland, although his inclusion must have been researched down to a fine detail.

Conor Murray maybe higher on the injury list. He is reported to have not played since the Six Nations, with concern over a neck injury. How the star halfback can be ready for 80 minutes of International rugby, may not be answered until the Lions arrive. If not fit, the call maybe to have a replacement ready at Heathrow Airport–so to act earlier, rather than later.

Sean O’Brien is carrying a hamstring injury, and senior figure Alun Wyn Jones too has a shoulder complaint. While each has a good period to recover, the risk for the Lions [as it was for the hosts] is that more names will be added to the medics list. By the time the squad assembles in London, there maybe more sore bodies to contend with.

Injuries Part of Modern Sport, and Modern Medicine

Yes, recovery from injuries is a part of sport. A broken thumb can be detrimental to holding a rugby ball, but none more so than a hamstring or ankle strain. The importance of correct diagnosis, and treatment is key. And while each side nurses an injury list, the approach should be to place player welfare first.

In years past, a player might be able to hide an injury, but today it is not as easy. Concussion in high on the list, so those protocols are well controlled–and hard to deny. But such are the wonders of modern medicine, with high altitude simulated training which can speed up recovery. So when Kaino undertakes surgery, it is minor key-hole and may only limit his movements for 3-4 weeks. He maybe able to continue gym work, as would Smith.

Contact training is the most important factor though. Nothing can simulate the high intensity that the International matches will hold. And while fitness will be tested and measured leading up to June 24, no player should be risked.

Fully fit is the base measure–in all modern sport.

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